THE BLOG

Meatless Monday: The Gulf Without Seafood

05/10/2010 11:18 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Off the coast of South Florida, we have creatures called stone crabs. You can pull off one of their claws (a delicacy prized by fishaterians) and it'll regenerate in a season -- a real miracle. We can't do that, not with our own limbs, not with the other vital resources we prize. Like oil.

As Michael, a Miami parking garage cashier, puts it, "Oil is the earth's blood." And with the Gulf coast oil spill, "We're killing the earth."

This guy is no more an environmental engineer than I am, but he's more in touch with the earth -- and more honest about our role in creating this disaster -- than a whole host of politicians and pundits including Rush Limbaugh, who calls the oil spill "as natural as water" and Texas Governor Rick Perry, who calls it an act of God.

We mourn the loss of the eleven who died in the rig explosion (which took place, ironically, two days after Earth Day). But we should mourn for the rest of us, too. Even if the oil doesn't get swept up in the loop current, bringing it down to us and to South Florida's islands, bays and birds, even if you're safely landlocked in Nebraska, you're going to feel the extent of the damage. It's going to hit the country economically in terms of job loss, at the table, in terms of food scarcity. The government has already imposed a fishing ban. Our already-fragile eco-system will be further compromised and so, in the process, will our health and homes.

My cashier friend likens watching the tide and counting the gallons and barrels of oil gushing into Gulf every day like waiting for an approaching hurricane. The difference, is a hurricane is a natural disaster, a true act of God. The oil spill is man-made and made in America, and the responsibility is our own, stemming from our insatiable appetite for oil.

Last year, I campaigned for the president, proudly wearing my Vegetarians for Obama button everywhere. One reason I've so believed in him is because he made clean, renewable energy a serious part of his platform. I've continued to support him since his election, while he's been blamed and picked apart for everything from Wall Street to Guantanamo, but the day he came out in favor of offshore drilling, he broke my heart.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but I've never understood the appeal of offshore drilling. Yes, we're crazy for fuel, but getting it by destroying finite, natural resources is like trying to lose weight by lopping off a limb. Yes, you will weigh less but sacrifice yourself in the process.

Oil is not renewable, when it's gone it's gone and we're burning through it faster than ever before. It's easy to blame BP, federal oversight or faulty equipment, but the real blame for the oil spill lies with us, for insisting on fueling our lives and SUVs at any cost.

I wish I could cap the oil well myself. Either that or live in Perry and Limbaugh's happy world where nature takes care of itself. But they're both in a Category 5 state of denial, Limbaugh in particular. He lives in Palm Beach part-time, and like the rest of us on the coast, he's going to wake up to a beach full of death -- dead fish, dead birds, dead tourism industry and beaches blackened and choked by tar blobs that demolish plant life. Fresh fish for dinner? Not so much. You can kiss those crab claws good-bye.

The fallout from this spill will be both long-term and toxic. The silver lining is, it may get us at last to see beyond political maneuvering, past denial and arrogance, to own up to personal greed and see the damage we 're doing to the environment. It may force us, all of us, the president, politicians, pundits, environmentalist, oil execs, garage cashiers, bloggers and everyone else, to put a ban drill, baby, drill (for good, please, Mr. President) and embrace clean, alternative energy, that like stone crab claws, renews and replenishes itself. It will be a hard transition and it will be expensive. But whatever it costs, whatever it takes has got to be better than killing the earth and ourselves in the process.

Veggie Salade Nicoise

In keeping with the seafood ban, here's a classic composed salad as chic as anything you'd find on the Riviera, sans tuna and anchovies. Serve room temperature or chilled.

2 eggs
2 potatoes, sliced
1 pound green beans, trimmed of tops and tails
2 tomatoes sliced or a dozen or so grape tomatoes
a handful of Nicoise or calamata olives
2 teaspoons capers (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil or walnut oil
2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey or agave
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place eggs in a small pot of water. Bring to rolling boil over high heat. Cover, leave pot on burner, but turn off heat. Leave for 20 minutes, then drain and plunge into ice water bath until eggs are thoroughly cool (this may be done a day ahead. Refrigerate eggs refrigerated in their shells).

Make vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together olive or walnut oil, Dijon mustard, honey or agave and balsamic. Whisk together for a minute or so, until smooth.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add trimmed green beans and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until beans are just tender and still bright green. Drain and plunge into ice water to keep beans crisp and pretty.

Once the pot is empty, you can re-use it for the potatoes. Same deal. Bring water to a boil, add sliced potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain potatoes and immediately toss with about half the dressing, letting the warm potatoes infuse with the vinaigrette.

To serve, arrange sliced potatoes on a platter or on individual plates. Top with green beans, tomatoes, olives, optional capers and hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters.

Drizzle with remaining dressing and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.